I am very passionate about the topic of integrating technology into the content areas. I feel it is a must and I work hard to find ways to integrate technology. But, for many, it is not an easy transition. Years of doing things the same way make it hard to see the benefits of doing something different.
For me, the relative advantage of using technology in the content area is that it enhances the opportunities we can provide to our students. We can give them another avenue for learning, create skills needed for furthering their education and careers, and even visit places that before would be off limits to the classroom.
The past year I have spent many hours trying to find ways to integrate iPads into the classroom. It seems to be all I think about. For this blog, I wanted to talk about something different and I’m sharing an example of the advantages of integrating technology into the content area that I experienced. I hope that over the course of the next year or two, this type of learning will happen more often at my school. This particular opportunity was made possible by a hard working teacher, the video conferencing equipment installed in our school by the Idaho State Department and a grant from Digital Learning Day.
Last year one of our teachers won a grant that provided her students with the opportunity to take a virtual field trip. This was the first time that I was able to participate in such an event. I set up a test call and got the classroom ready for students to use the videoconferencing system. I had no idea what to expect. I knew the kids were showing up and I had to call in to the location.
The students had been learning about different ecosystems and had been “flying” around in their classroom airplanes to different locations. They would watch videos and do other activities to enhance their studies. They even got a behind the scenes tour of the Boise Airport. The teacher picked this field trip to support the learning that was taking place in the classroom. What made this virtual field trip special is that students were able to visit The Alaska Sea Life Center. They watched the birds fly and swim around in real time. They were able to listen to the presentation that the expert gave to them. They were able to raise their hands and be called on to ask questions. They participated in an activities and even used clay to build a bird. The materials had been shipped and arrived at school in time to be ready for the presentation. The center provided background materials to study before going on the field trip. It was a huge success and students thought it was an amazing experience. Did I mention they were first and second graders?
They were completely engaged! It isn’t often that you get that young of kids to sit and be engaged for an hour. They were able to go someplace special that most of them probably won’t go to in person. They had the opportunity to speak with an expert in the field of marine animals. They got to see and learn about birds that we don’t have in Idaho.
This one event for me reaffirmed my belief that technology is key to great things. It allows distances to disappear and opportunities to unfold. It brought science to a first/second classroom that previously wan unreachable. It brought experts to the students.